A master of American literature presents a tragicomic, coming-of-age romance.
Set in New York against the backdrop of 1880s high society, Washington Square is one of the most beloved novels from master Henry James, and its exploration of interfamily strife and power dynamics, as well as its early take on gender issues, continue to resonate with readers today.
Catherine Sloper is the only child of the successful Dr. Austin Sloper, residing with the physician in an upscale home on the edge of Washington Square in New York City. Shy and plain, yet honest and good-natured, Catherine is regarded as a perpetual disappointment by her father, who becomes suspicious of her young fortune-hunting suitor, Morris Townsend. As snooping Aunt Lavinia Penniman works to push Catherine and Townsend together—and provides some much appreciated comic relief—Catherine’s father threatens to cut his daughter off if she pushes forward with the courtship and accepts Townsend’s ultimate proposal of marriage.
However, the dashing Townsend is willing to take the bluff, and Catherine’s future hangs on what has become a game. And while Dr. Sloper has reason to question Townsend’s intentions, the situation soon takes on an aspect of cruel sport for the good doctor.
Based on a true story told to the author by British actress Fanny Kemble, Washington Square has become a cherished favorite of readers everywhere. Originally serialized in magazines, it is one of the shorter novels in the Jamesian canon, but nevertheless stands as one of the writer’s most enduring tragicomedies and the perfect introduction to the novelist and his work.
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